This Latin book of hours – a prayer book - features fifteen hand-painted woodcuts of Biblical scenes in gold leaf and brilliant colours. Prayer books typically featured illustrations to help people reflect on the mysteries of the Christian faith. A team of artists worked together to create these illustrations, focusing on different parts of the page.
The three most important colours were vermillion red, ultramarine blue, and gold. Gold was the most precious, as artists of the time considered it the only colour appropriate to glorify God.
Vermillion red was produced by mixing sulphur and mercury. Another source of red pigment was produced by grinding the mineral cinnabar.
The most expensive shade of blue was ultramarine, which came from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. Ultramarine was associated with humility and purity and was typically used to paint the clothing of the Virgin Mary.
This item is on long-term loan from the National Galleries of Scotland (Watson Collection).
[Library reference: RB.s.3008]